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Fall Prevention with Tai Chi and Eurythmy Therapy

Can tai chi and eurythmy therapy reduce the risk of falls among older individuals? This question is being addressed by researchers at the university clinic in Freiburg with a national study. The Federal Ministry for Education and Research will support the project for four years with two million euros.

The study will examine 550 participants age 65 and older who, due to chronic illness and/or medication, have an increased risk of falls, or whose movement has become less stable. They will be divided into three groups, and for a half-year will receive either the standard treatment, tai chi, or eurythmy therapy, with the aim of strengthening physical and mental sensory function.

The goal of the study is to examine whether there is any change in the frequency of falls and whether there are differences – dependent on therapy – in terms of fall anxiety, mobility, and balance as well as life quality, mood, or cognition.

“We assume that physical and mental fitness can not only prevent many illnesses and improve treatment of them, but that the affected individuals will also feel more secure in their movements,” said study director Dr. Gunver Kienle of the Center for Complementary Medicine at the University of Freiburg, describing the study’s approach. That could decrease the anxiety of falls, which often mean the end of independence for older individuals, and could significantly reduce the costs of incurred treatment.

The study at the University of Freiburg will use so-called “fall diaries” to demonstrate the success of tai chi or eurythmy therapy using primarily subjective parameters. In parallel to the Freiburg study, a sub-study – supported by the Software AG Foundation – will be carried out at the Studienzentrum Essen to examine to influence of these therapies on telomere length.

“Telomere lengths is recognized in conventional medicine as a firm scientific marker for cell aging,” observed SAGST project manager Sandra Würtenberger. Thus, the telomere study – depending on the results – hopes to be able to extend the results of the subjective study; and by demonstrating a positive effect on telomere length, the study may contribute to greater scientific recognition of eurythmy therapy.